In this week’s Parsha of Shemot we read of the beginning of the descent of the Jewish people into Egypt. But the same section also narrates G-d’s promise of Israel’s future liberation. In the very throes of exile lie the seeds of redemption.
Exile and redemption are two sides of the human condition. Yet they often intertwine, the one producing the other. Through exile we will appreciate liberation.
But there are those who claim that freedom does not require exile first. That freedom is its own phenomenon. They claim that freedom is to do what you want to do, when you want to do it, wherever you want to do it and with whomever you want to do it. Without realizing it, they are actually practicing exile or slavery. Such ‘freedom’ really means pandering to the ego – becoming a pleasure-seeking slave.
Is a person free to express his/herself on canvas just by wanting to? Or must there be a period of training, experimenting, long hours, even apprenticeship, before the hands and eyes are skilled enough to be truly free to create a piece of art. Can a person be free to heal without disciplined study of medicine for long years, or years of training under a master healer before the freedom to heal can be mastered?
It is ironically only through a period of self-imposed ‘slavery’ that freedom can become a reality. The same held true for the Jewish people in Egypt. Only through their bitter experience in Egypt could they appreciate the moment of liberation that we call the Exodus, and more profoundly, entry into the Promised Land.
To be truly free one must first buckle down.